Category Archives: Green

DSC_0067

Butterfly Art

I went through all of my greeting cards this past weekend.  I sorted into piles of crafting and piles of keep and piles for garbage.  The kept more than I probably should have but they had sentimental value.  The crafting ones I am using for this art project.  The cost of this project was minimal.  The cards were free.  The butterfly paper punch was maybe $2.99, clearance at a stationary store.  The frame I had laying around, and I couldn’t find anything to do with it.  I bought a double mat at 40% off.  The rest was stuff I already had.

I went to work cutting out a whole lot of butterflies.  I selected the portion of the card I thought was the most colorful or decorative.  Some had sparkles, some had pattern and some had embossing.  I wanted to get an assortment of colors as well.

butterflies for blog

The next thing I did was get a scrap piece of paper that I drew my grid on.  I measured the opening of the mat board, then measured rows and columns to my liking.  After that, I transferred the cross marks using a needle so what was left were little holes where I was going to glue my butterflies.

PicMonkey Collage20I wanted my butterflies to pop up a little.  I made sure I had enough room in the frame, that is why I chose a double mat.   Everywhere I had a hole, I glued down a small bead.  I’ve had these beads since I was in elementary school.  I am glad I am finally finding a use for them.

beads

Once the glue was dry I started gluing my butterflies to the beads.  I assorted my colors so they would be mixed in the finished art.  I first glued all of the blue, then the green, then magenta and so on.

DSC_0055 2

Once everything is glued on and dried, assemble the frame and you are done!

DSC_0059

Ta-da!  Nice, eh?  I love this so much I might make a couple more.

cards

Reuse Birthday/Christmas Cards

When I need to do some cleaning in my house, I first put on an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive for a bit of motivation.   I find it works great.  After an episode this past week, I decided to put all of my cards together and store them.  I figured one photo-box would suffice.  Nope.  Maybe two or three would have done better.   I have some when I was a kid from my grandma so those hold some sentimental value.   There are so many cool cards that I have saved but I was thinking what else I could do with them in order to re-purpose them more thoughtfully than sticking them in a box.  Here are a couple of ways to reuse your hoarded cards:

1.   Cut of the front and use as a postcard.

2.  Use patterns for scrap-booking.

3.  Use a circle punch and make gift tags.

4.  Make bookmarks.

5.  Make into coasters or place mat. -> here.  My grandma had these.  Brings back wonderful memories.

6.  Canning jar toppers.  -> here.  I like this idea.

7.  Make garland.  ->  here.  Very creative idea and chic.

8.  Artwork.  ->  here.   I am going to try the butterfly one.  Love it.  Include the personal messages if you want to showcase in your artwork.

9.  Frame your favorites.

10.  Pine cone ornament for next Christmas. -> here.

Do you have additional ideas?  I would love to hear about them.  I am looking to do a couple of these soon!

bullaten

DIY Covered Bulletin Board

When I shop at our local thrift stores, I will often find really cheap artwork that either has no glass or damaged somehow.  Mostly really ugly artwork.  But, the frames can really be in good shape, and that’s what I look for.  I bought one for $4.99 maybe and it’s approximately 2 foot by 3 foot.

You can really do a lot with these.   I decided to make a bulletin board covered in a cool funky fabric.  Chevron is in style so I picked some up at Hobby Lobby, and used a 40% off coupon, maybe costing $4.00 in the end.  The rest is just a bit of labor and assembly.

I first pulled off the paper backing to reveal the staples that held it all together.  Usually you will find some cardboard that fills the frame, behind the artwork.  This is what I glued the cork to (also purchased the cork at the craft store).  There are different thicknesses, I went with the 3/8th inch thickness.  I glued the cork directly to the cardboard backing.

I had to iron the fabric because it had creases.  I wrapped it around the cork and left about a 1.5 inch margin, enough to glue it to the back.   I don’t have a glue gun yet, so I used Aleenes Craft glue and used the paperclips to hold it down until dries.

chevron

Then, just fold the corners so they look nice, this is optional.   Assemble  the cork inside the frame, and push back the staples so it’s secure.  I will need to mount some hooks to the back, then all done.

Probably a total cost of $15 tops, I got a cool inspirational board.  Now I have a tough decision on where to put it.

Scarf Wrap

Green Christmas Wrapping

I vow to not use any new wrapping paper for this Christmas.   I still have some used wrapping paper from last year that I saved.  I also saved a lot of bags that I have reused for many years.  But you don’t have to stop there.  There are a whole bunch of ways to “wrap” your Christmas presents without wrapping paper.

1.  Christmas tins.

Christnas tims

2.  Photo box.

3.  Wicker basket.

4.  Scarf.

5.  Magazine pages.

6.  Comics.

newsprint wrap

7.  Small gifts in a coffee mug.

8.  Wrap just in tissue paper.

9.  Towels.

10.  Tupperwear.

11. Egg cartons.

 

Making Life More Efficient

I always thought that decluttering would make life less stressed.  We own bigger homes than decades ago just so we can fill it up with stuff.  I think half of it is the thrill of shopping.  Buying something new makes us feel good.  These things clutter our lives and add stress.

So my husband and I had a rummage sale and tried our best to rid our lives of as much stuff that wasn’t needed.  We definitely could have got rid of more.  But, by even doing this…we continue to get frustrated by how cluttered and messy our lives are even with less stuff.

We had an ah-ha moment.  Yes, it’s nice to get rid of things and declutter, but it’s more about our home is organized.  We made a plan.  We figured out what frustrated us the most and drilled down to see why it was a problem.  Here is what we discovered and how we made it better.

1.  We always had garbage all over our counter top.  We decided that the location to our garbage can was not working for us.  We originally had it in a closet…out of sight, out of mind.  Having to open a door every time to throw away something was a hassel  By buying a new garbage with a lid, and putting it out in the kitchen has kept our counters clean.

2.  We always misplaced our keys.  I didn’t want to install a key holder because our sun room had nice wood paneling (not the 80′s style – more like cabin style) and I didn’t want to mess it up.  So I installed those adhesive hooks that you can pull a tab and it releases.  This was an efficiency that requires a new habit but so far it’s working.

3.  We put a garbage in the bathroom.  This made a huge difference.  I didn’t realize how much garbage we created in this room.

4.  We put a laundry hamper in the bathroom as well.  We would always have piles of dirty clothes on the floor and just putting it in a bin has made our house so much cleaner.

5.  We always had issues with one of us opening mail and leaving it all over the table.  We are still working this one out.  We need to find a way to remove consistently putting waste in the recycling.   This will require a new habit.

We do have a long way to go, but we are finding ways to make our household easier to live in.  So far, it’s making a huge difference.

hair

Make Your Own Hairballs

Do you have lots of cat fur laying around?

I do – so I make hairballs to keep my cats busy.

Just take a bunch of pet fur from brushing (the Furminator works wonders) and roll into a ball.  Roll for a few minutes.

Then roll across the floor and watch your cats chase!

cat balls

Homemade Cat Toys

Or just lay on top of it, like my cats do.

stamps

Reuse Bed Linen Zippered Pouch

Use these little clear zippered pouches that you get when you purchase bedding for your craft supplies.

I use one from pillow cases to store all of my stamps and ink pads.

Other things you can store in these things:

  1. sewing supplies (needles, thimbles, zippers, string, buttons, etc.)
  2. scrapbook stuff (rub on stickers, ribbon, scissors, pictures, glue, etc.)
  3. hair accessories (hair ties, combs, brushes, curling irons, straighteners, etc.)
  4. make up and nail polishes
  5. kids craft stuff (markers, crayons, paints, etc.)

All of these ideas you won’t have to throw them away again!

 

ingredients

DIY Composter: Take 2

I blogged in 2012 about making a homemade composter.  But I made one on such a small scale it didn’t make sense.  I am moving up in size ladies and gentlemen!  I am just going to use a garbage pail, one that is small enough to roll around on the ground, but not large enough for it to be bulky and difficult to hide.  I have seen a lot of cool composters people have made and designed it with a door, and on 2 by 4′s so you just have to turn a knob to mix it:

composter 1With my vacation coming up I don’t have the time to make this so I made a simpler one.

This is what you will need:

Round Garbage Pail with a lid (one that locks in place if possible).

Food Scraps/Yard Waste (I will get into more detail below on what you need here).

Water

Electric Screwdriver

Soil or finished compost

In order to make good compost you need a good combination of green ingredients, brown ingredients, water and air.  Green ingredients are things like, fresh cut grass, fruit and veggie scraps, egg shells, plant trimmings, coffee grounds and filters and hair (I had 3 cats so I have an abundance of cat fur)  Brown ingredients are dead grass (if you need to rake, this will give you a lot of brown ingredients you can stock pile), saw dust, newspaper, pine needles and straw.   I mixed mine in layers.  I started with brown, mixed in some green, soil, greens and brown.  Add just enough water so it’s as wet as a damp sponge that has been wrung out.

Make sure you drill enough holes in the lid to get good air flow.  This mixture should create heat, but you don’t want it to get too hot.

Pop on the lid and secure and you are done.  I will keep adding food scraps and yard waste until it is full.  In the mean time I will ensure it is properly mixed every few days by rolling it over the ground on it’s side.  This will be easy that the garbage pail is round.   I will update on the progress as it gets closer to complete compost.

box2

One Mans Trash is My Treasure

Spring cleaning is next week and people are loading up there boulevards with as much crap as they have been collecting up until this time of the year.   I end up seeing a lot of stuff that can be repurposed, if the right person comes along.  Enter me.  I found this!

box 1

I am not sure what I will do with it yet, but for now I absolutely love the texture of the wood, and the old look of the brackets.  I am pretty sure I can put it to use somewhere.  I am looking forward to finding some other cool things this week.  I spied a saw horse in a neighbors lawn and I was thinking about carrying it home to see if it could be of use for me, or my dad.  The City of Fargo suddenly changed back the Spring Cleaning week to this week so I won’t have much  time to search for treasures.

We also see a lot of people collect metals of all sorts to trade in for cash.  I honestly love seeing this, because some people make a ton of money from this, and it also prevents a lot of metal from going to the landfill.  An article I had read recently in our local paper stated that our landfill has about 11 more years left before it’s at capacity.  This is happening in a lot of more cities than Fargo.  If we can all be a bit more mindful of what we throw away we can extend the life of the landfill.   The city collects food scraps with it’s yard waste during the warm months, Fargo has electronic recycling day where we can turn in computers and TV’s and also has free curbside recycling.  There should be no reason why we have to put our trash can on the boulevard filled to the brim each week.

10 Things to Do With Toilet Paper Rolls

Last week I found out that the spring cleanup week will be postponed until September because of the Fargo Moorhead flood fight.  The flood crest prediction has been lowered and cleanup of the city afterwards will start sooner than we all predicted so the city announced spring cleanup will resume as the first week of May.  This is great news because I like to garbage pick for reusable items and things I can blog about.  I am hoping I can find some old wood to make furniture with.  In the mean time…while people are loading their boulevards with other people’s treasures, I am going to compile a list of things you can do with toilet paper rolls.

1.  Hamsters/Gerbils love them.  See: picture of hamster loving toilet paper rolls.

2.  Make Fire Starters.

3.  DIY compostable peat pots.

4.  Artwork: Creativity 1, Creativity 2, Creativity 3 (and my favorite)

5.  Add to your compost pile.

6.  Make bird house mobile.

7.  Crafts for children.

8.  Chic Christmas Ornaments.

9.  Use as a stencil.

10.  Christmas garland.

smallspace

If you had 260 square foot of living space…

What would you keep?  What would you donate?  Would you get bored with only the small amount of things around you?  Is our livelihood, happiness and popularity defined by what we own, or how little we own?

I live with my husband and 3 cats in a home the size of about 1400 square feet, included in that a 2 floor sunroom-loft and living space above the garage.  I believe I can live with half this amount of space.  If I did not have the loft or the garage living space I wouldn’t miss it.   The space we spend the most amount of time is the living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.  These to me are the only required spaces and they do not need to be large.  More space makes us believe that we require more stuff to fill it.

Check out this link.  I could live here.  You can pick where you want to live (it’s on wheels).  We ought to spend more time in the outdoors, rather than indoors anyways.  Do you think you would be happy living in a house this small?

Media Inspiration

I am inspired by a lot of things.  My interests in the environment and being healthy have been formed by many things that I have seen on the internet, watched or read.  I am even inspired by others.  I watched a really inspirational documentary last night and I wanted to share with you all.  Living On One Dollar is the name of the film and it is about Americans spending time in Guatemala living on very little income and trying to survive.  They show the difficulties local families endure deciding on whether to buy food or to educate their children.  It’s quite sad.  But it makes me want to do something.   I want to be happy with what I have and seeing these families happy yet struggling to get by makes me really think about all that I have and why I constantly want more.  If you want more information on this documentary or to donate, check out this link.

I have also seen several other documentaries that you should check out if you have not already:

  1. An Inconvenient Truth-you all probably have heard of this one by Al Gore.  This is the science behind global warming.
  2. No Impact Man-a small family spends one year without environmental impact.
  3. Supersize Me-made me swear of fast food.
  4. Food Inc.-overview on corporate farming.

Also, if you have a chance, you should read the book, Not Buying It by Judith Levine.  A woman goes one year buying only the specific list of agreed upon essentials prior to starting the year.  This means not eating out, going to movies or going shopping.  Wine is not a necessity, neither is travel.  To me, these types of videos and books are inspirational to me.  They make me want to make a change, as I hope they will inspire you to make simple changes.

cups

Paper Pulp Planters

Do you a simple project to use all of that junk mail, newspapers or wrapping paper?  These planters are easy and you can repurpose waste that is otherwise destined for the trash or recycling into planters that you can plant right in the ground once it thaws.

All you need is:

Newspaper/Paper or Wrapping paper

Water

Blender

Cupcake tin

Flour sack or wax paper

Colander

1.  Put half a blender full of torn up paper shreds into the blender and add enough water to saturate it.  Blend until it looks like paper pulp and you can’t see much of what the paper used to look like.

2.  Strain the pulp in the colander and let drain until much of the water is out.  You can wring it out a bit to get more of the water out.

3.  I applied the pulp to the cupcake tins without anything between the pulp and the tin and most of then got stuck.  Next time I will try a flour sack and wedge it down into the groves before I apply the pulp.  Or you can try wax paper or even butter to grease the sides.

4.  Allow to dry for a couple of days.  Once fully dry, lift the flour sack off the tin.

5.  Plant seeds in each cup using soil and some homemade compost.  Plant in garden once ready and water accordingly.

If you are like me and can’t wait for spring, these will be a nice way to start early.

Blog Spotlight: Refashionista

I absolutely love the idea of this blog.  She buys the really ugly clothes at thrift stores for mere dollars if that, then turns them into beautiful outfits.  A lot of times she has a inspiration outfit she likes, then cuts, pins and sews the “ugly” garment into the magnificent new one.

refasiIf I knew anything about making clothes I would try some of these redesigns.  This is re-purposing at its finest.  You definitely need to check out this blog.

Get Rid of Cable and Satellite

Our decision to cut satellite service was an easy one.  I wanted to save money.  On top of  money, we are still getting all of the shows that we want anyways.  Some shows are not as easy to get as others, but with the internet, you can see almost all shows just a day later if that.

My husband told me about Roku.  It is a little box you buy from Best Buy, or online and it works as a link between the computer and TV.  I think it cost about $60 (approximately $2.50/month if you assume an upgrade in 2 years).  You even get a little remote.  You then subscribe to Hulu, Amazon Prime and/or Netflix streaming.   $7.99 for Hulu Plus, Amazon is $79 per year ($6.58/month) and you get movies, shows and 2 day free shipping from Amazon.  Netflix I haven’t signed up for yet, but will soon.    With that all tallied up the approximate cost for all of this streaming is $17.07 per month.  Previously we were paying just over $70 for satellite service for the same TV.  We are saving over $50 per month.   If we add Netflix streaming it would be $7.99 per month in addition.

I find the quality of the TV is better.  There is limited commercials, maybe 30 seconds tops.  The only difference between Roku and having satellite is you have to know what you are going to watch.  You can’t just turn on a channel and just watch whatever is live.  All of these shows are previously aired and you essentially pick what you want to watch.  The only other thing is you never watch anything live.  So watch out for spoilers.

Is saving $600 per year worth waiting a day to watch your favorite programs?  What does $600 buy or pay for?  It pays for 1 entire month of mortgage payment on one of our properties.  Or it would pay for 5 full gas tanks worth of gas.  Or 3-4 nights stay at a fairly good hotel.  A lot of nice clothes.  20 meals out with your significant other.  Pretty tempting, eh?  Why not do some research on streaming and give up the bill!

 

Smart Phone Rant – No – I Am Not Anti-Smart Phone.

Before I get into my smart phone rant, I will admit that I WILL get a smart phone someday.  But hopefully not someday soon.  My distaste is not the large amounts of money that you spend on a data plan (that is a valid reason to NOT get a smart phone), but it’s the idea that we are already addicted to our phones way too much – me included!   And, not only cell phones, but computers, TV’s, video games and FACEBOOK!

If I were to average how much time I spend on technology in any given day, I would say 8 + at work, then come home and spend 2-3 more hours online and in front of the TV.   Much of that I am sure is because it is winter still, and not much you can do outside…but if I were to cut out 2 hours after work, just think of how much I could accomplish, how many friends I could hangout with, how much cleaning I could do, how much crafting I could do.

My goal is to live a simpler life.  Not one, bogged down using technology ever waking hour.  I want to go on walks, play with my cats, read and practice yoga or meditate.  I would love to write, draw or play piano.   Unfortunately I have carved such deep habits in my daily routine  that I don’t feel as relaxed as I should if I don’t spend time online.

So, if/when I get a smart phone, it will become a part of me.  I know it will.  An extra appendage that I can’t leave home without.  I am not ready for that yet.  Some day, I will be, but I am okay with the cell phone that I have now.   My happy blue dumb phone.

DSC_19421111111111

Make It Burn – Firestarters

What can you do with empty toilet paper rolls and a whole lot of dryer lint?  Make these awesome firestarters.  I hate when you are trying to light a fire on a quiet dark night and you are trying to enjoy some nature, but you can never get the fire going.  So you pull out the lighter fluid only for the fire to blaze for a few minutes.  That stuff is crap.  It is totally unneeded now that you have these FREE firestarters!

Directions:

1.  Do a few loads of laundry.  This is something you are bound to do anyways, unless your parents still wash your clothes.  If they do, you have awesome parents.  But see if they can part with their dryer lint.

2.  Collect lint from the dryer.  We typically only dry our clothes inside when there is still snow on the ground so the time for us to prepare these are only through the winter season.  *Sadly our winter is from October through April.  So, had I started these earlier, I would have had a butt load!

3.  Collect toilet paper rolls.  Generally my husband and I are too lazy to throw these away, so they end up collecting on the back of the toilet.  Surprisingly I must have been on top of my game this week at cleaning because I only found one.  *You can use paper towel rolls as well.  (Do you see a face in the pile of lint in the below image?  I see Yoda smirking at me).  {I didn’t know the name Yoda so I had to ask my husband who the gremlin looking feller was in Star Wars}.

DSC_19361111

4.  Stuff the lint into the roll.  Voila!

I think this blog can go under being thrifty as well.  You can save money, reduce waste and live green – all at the same time!

Spring Ahead

Spring is not only known for spring cleaning, but also for getting ready for gardening, flip flops and long weekends.   Maybe a few extra beers in there too.  In any case, I look forward to gardening, the scents that come with spring and fresh produce the most.  Also, the disappearing act of snow.  Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of room, actually, no room to plant a garden.  But we hated the idea of paying the ever increasing costs of produce at the grocery store, and it’s not even organic.  AND it’s shipped from all over the country and some from Latin America.

There is a solution!  Subscribe to a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  In essence, you pay an upfront “subscription” fee, then for months June through October you get a box of veggies (or two boxes depending upon the size of share you opt for).  My husband and I did the CSA thing the last 2 years.  We picked up our box once a week from a designated pickup site and the produce (organic – our CSA was anyways) vary from week to week, based on the season.  Initially we received a lot of lettuces, herbs, radishes and potatoes.  Then,  tomatoes, raspberries, beets and cucumbers towards the middle of the season.  Then for fall, squash, pumpkins, garlic and anything left over was in our share.  2 years ago our CSA actually allowed all those interested to come down to the farm and pick as many tomatoes as we could fill in 4 HUGE pails.  We managed to can enough to take us through 2 winters.

The benefits to CSA are numerous.

  1. You have the ability to try new veggies.  I found that I REALLY love kohlrabi and I have never tried one before we signed up for a CSA.
  2. You are more apt to “eat your vegetables.”   Every meal we had featured vegetables of some sort.
  3. You support the local economy. The farms that provide CSA’s need subscribers like you to continue to operate, in some cases.  CSA’s may be their only means of income.
  4. It’s a less carbon footprint.  Our veggies only traveled 45 miles to get to us.   As opposed to coming from California, Mexico or Florida to Fargo ND.
  5. It’s fun!  You never know what you are going to get.  It’s like opening a present.
  6. It saves you a trip to the grocery store.   Some CSA’s actually deliver to your work place (if there’s enough interest).
  7. Many CSA’s are organic, so you are not getting veggies covered in synthetic fertilizers.

With all of those benefits, why not?  Especially if you do not have the ability to garden yourself.  As you are taking out the flip flops and the lawn furniture, why don’t you consider signing up for a CSA!  It is worth it in so many ways!

ab

T-Shirt Yarn

What can you do with a crap ton of holy (hole-y) t-shirts that you can’t wear anymore without looking like a hobo?  You make t-shirt yarn!!  And it is so easy.  Here are the steps on making your own t-shirt yarn.

What you will need:

T-shirts

X-acto knife or scissors

Straight edge

Hard surface that you can cut on (I cut over card stock)

1.  Find t-shirts.  I found that shirts with a silk screen print doesn’t curl as easy in the final step.

2.  Fold the shirt like below.  The top half is about an inch shorter at the top than the bottom half.

a

3.  Cut the bottom inch off the shirt (actually the right side) – but it is really the bottom of the t-shirt.  A scissors worked better than a x-acto knife I found out.

4.  Next you will cut 1 inch or 1.5 inch slits starting from the right, moving to the left.  Cut only up to the top edge, leaving that 1 inch gap uncut.  (see below)

b

5.  You will end right below the sleeve/arm pit.  You will cut all the way across here.

c

6.  Lift up the side of the shirt that was left uncut.  Spread it open over your forearm.

d

7.  You will start cutting into one long strand of yarn now.  Starting on the right side, closest to your fingers.  Place the scissors on the outer side and you will cut a diagonal slice to the first cut.

e

8.  Then you will continue to cut diagonal, the most right bottom cut, to the next top cut.  Stay parallel to your first cut.

a1

9.  Continue all the way to the left.  The last bottom slit on the left side you will have to end the cut on the outermost edge. Similar to how you started, just reverse.

a2

10.  That was your final snip.  You have one long strand of yarn now.  You will have to stretch it so it curls.  Start on one edge and lightly stretch it so the fabric naturally curls.

a3

11.  Finally, just roll it into a ball until you are ready to knit with it.  A scarf made out if this yarn would be super soft and warm!  If you do not have t-shirts laying around, check out a thrift store.  They probably receive a lot of shirts they cannot sell because of bleach stains or maybe some small holes.

Frugality: You can save money being green!

I like saving money, especially if I can also be green at the same time.  Being frugal is what I like to call it.  I like saving a little here and there, try not to be wasteful and not spending on things that are not really needed.  I am not saying buying some name brand clothes is off limits, but buy clothes that is good quality and will last.  Being frugal is different than being cheap…a point my husband makes very clear to me at times.  Sometimes I have been known to be cheap.  For example, I will never buy a can opener at Walmart ever again just because it’s cheaper.  It is cheaper for a reason.  For certain hard working kitchen objects, it is essential to buy good quality so you do not have to replace it every year.

I wanted to give some examples of being frugal (saving money) and being green (helping the environment).  It is nice to multitask.

1.  Buy rechargeable batteries.  You will have to buy a battery recharger, but in the long run, you will save money and lots of batteries will NOT be sent to the garbage.  If you do have batteries that are used up, you can bring them into stores that will dispose of them responsibly.

2.  Hang dry your clothes when you can.  It lengthens the life on the clothes considerably because they are not tossed around in the dryer.  Also, you save lots of money and electricity by using the dryer.  I personally think that the clothes smell better when they are on the line.  The clothes dryer is one of the highest energy hogs in the home.

3.  Use ceiling fans. It is cheaper than running your air conditioning and it uses less energy – thus saving you money.

4.  If you can, purchase re purposed ink cartridges.  You know the ones that you send in that are empty.  They can refill them and resell them.  This completes the recycling cycle.

5.  Reduce your gas consumption in 2 ways.  First, bike when you can.  Last year I biked to work and back.  I was able to postpone filling my gas tank for over 2 months.  This is over $100 savings on just gas for that.  Gas is becoming obscenely expensive so it will just be easier to spend more and more money on gas.  Second, buy a push mower.  One of those old fashion kind.  Mowers can release lots of fumes in to the air.  Or you can dig up all of your grass and plant a flower bed or vegetable garden.

Those are just a couple of ideas that come to my mind now.  I plan to add more as I go because I want you to save money, and be green as well!  Cheers!

Weekly Going Green Tips: Stop the Junk Mail!

Per Earth911.com, “each year 19 billion catalogs are mailed to American consumers.”  For these 19 billion catalogs, 53 million trees are cut down.  Also, “most catalog companies don’t use recycled paper.”  A high percentage of this mail is considered junk and is tossed out immediately.

Instead of just bringing in your mail, throwing it or letting it pile up on the table creating clutter, why not take care of it right away?  Your table will stay clean and you will produce less waste.  What I mean, let’s remove our names from unwanted mailing lists!  It will save us time and frustration down the line.

Going forward, for all of the catalogs that I get that are unwanted, I am going to take action to remove my name from mailing lists.  I used to work in a call center for a catalog company. The way it works, is catalog companies can sell your name to other catalog companies.  The pile of unwanted catalogs can add up if you don’t take care if it right away.  Just think of the 53 billing trees that are being cut down for junk mail.

Besides just calling the contact number on the catalog there are other methods of removing your name from all mailing lists.

1.  www.catalogchoice.org – you create an account, then log in when you have a catalog you wish to be removed from.  Search by catalog name then it will pull up a summary of what the catalog is.  You can use multiple names (can include all family members names) and addresses (which you update from your profile.)  One thing I like about this site is you can opt to receive an email from the publisher once they acknowledge your request.  The site seems very user friendly.  However, I am not sure if the publishers are required to remove your name, or how they get your request OR how long it will take.  A lot of unanswered questions here.

2.  dmachoice.org – you log in, click on the hyperlink of the catalog that you want to remove your name from.  You then are given the contact email or phone number.  Maybe I assumed they would do the dirty work for you, but it seems like just as much work to locate the number on the catalog and call without logging in.

If you removed your name from all of the mailing lists you do not want, just think of all of the time savings you would have?  No more sorting through all the junk you receive, but you will only get mail that you want/need.  So far, catalogchoice seems to be my favorite for now.  I urge you to take 5 minutes to sign up and save a few trees!

Off The Grid

What does living green mean to you?  To me, it means reducing our carbon footprint, living simpler and without convenience items that serve a single purpose.  Living with just the necessities, leaving the least amount of waste and being one with nature.  I think living green is much more than reduce, reuse and recycle.  It is a state of mind.  Making decisions and keeping the earth in mind.

I have always said that living off the grid would be awesome.  Using solar panels or wind for energy.  Using a composting toilet and a rain collection system for your water needs.  I am not really into the freegan lifestyle, but growing a garden, canning and composting is important to me.

I am always inspired by people doing just this.  I wanted to share some stories that I came across that may inspire you too.

One family built their home out of a bus:

bus

This following article really inspired me.  A family chooses to not work, but instead live off the excess of others.  They are on a money strike and do not want to support the “excess-consumption society.”  It hits home because we have a side project that gives us a little bit extra money each month, but it always seems that even with more money, it is not enough.  We always want more.  More money, more things.  Here is the link.  Don’t they look so happy?

family

If you want to read a bit more about how to live off the grid please click here.

If you had a chance to live this lifestyle for a while, would you?  I want to feel what is is like to live with less, to live free.

Is Packaging Free Products In Our Future?

I hope so!  And the sooner the better!  I came across an article today about a designer named Aaron Mickelson.   He is attempting to solve the overproduction of waste created from packaging.  Just think of all of the “single-serving” products you use every day.  My coffee creamer and stevia packets are all single serving.  I go through one or two every day.  We have become so accustomed to these items that it would be hard to live without.  

Anyways, just a visual image: “Every year, Americans generate a lot of solid waste. In 2010, 250 million tons, according to the EPA. A full 30 percent of that (about 76 million tons) comes from packaging — it’s the biggest culprit.”

Mickelson intends to rid of packaging all together.  His thesis project called, The Disappearing Package, was created to improve the functionality of packaging.  By picking products that consumers purchase regularly, like Tide, Twinings and Nivea, for example, will give consumers the chance to see these products in a different way.

He researched materials and processes that would be non toxic, create the least amount of waste possible, and packaging that is safe.  Packaging does serve a purpose of getting products safely from production to homes, but mostly is “over-engineered.”

I think this article shows futuristic thinking and hopefully will become something that is readily available.  Kudos to Mr. Mickelson!

 

Repurposed Organizer

My husband and I are planning on moving from Fargo ND to Southern California within the next year.  We don’t know exactly where yet, but somewhere between San Francisco and San Diego.  A lot can happen until then, but we are starting the planning process.

We went through our closets this last weekend.  Actually my husband started, then I thought it would be a good idea to go through those dark corners of my closet that never see the light of day.

In our planning of moving we intend to rid our lives of LOTS of stuff.  We will end up living in half the square footage so having just the things that are most important to us will come with.  I am eager to start going through our stuff and prepare for a massive rummage sale even though we don’t know if it is 100% sure we are going.  The thought on living with less or living a simpler life intrigues me so much.

I noticed in my closet I had a stack of scarf that looked like a cluttered mess.  I found a re-use for my husbands slack stacker (not sure what they are called).  It hangs my scarves nicely so I will be able to grab and go without the closet mess.   I am looking for more ways to organize and would love to hear of your tips on containing the clutter.

CSC_1625111

DSC_1587 bag

DIY Plastic Bag Reusable Tote

My husband normally does the grocery shopping, since he does the cooking, but since we were going to be out and about anyways I tagged along.  I searched for our reusable bags that I normally would bring, but only found 3.  We have about 10 around the house somewhere.  I am sure they are all in my husbands car being unused.  That being said, we have a lot of plastic bags that either need to be used, or turned in at our grocery store for recycling.

I wanted to try to make my own reusable bag from this link.  Please reference that site for better pictures of the process.  I tried my best, but most times I was frustrated at something and just wanted to be done so skipped the pictures.

First thing I did was gathered all of my shopping bags.  I noticed I had two types and separated them even further by bag type.  Next, I flattened them out, cut the bottom seam off and the handles.

You need 4 bags for each panel.  I used the smaller bags for the sides and bottom, then the bigger ones for the front and back.

You will now need an iron, wax paper and either a towel and sturdy table or an ironing board.

I used a table and towel and it worked just fine.  Lay the towel on the table.  Place 4 flattened, cut bags on top, then a piece of wax paper that spans the entire bottom of the bag on top of the bags.  Ensure your iron is set to wool setting.  You will have to keep the iron moving fast otherwise the plastic will melt and create little holes.  I found this out the hard way.

DSC_1584 wax

I always ironed the middle bottom then out to the side.  Once the bottom is done, flip and do the same on the other side.  Then rotate and do the top side until all of the bags are melted together.  Do this for all 4 sides and the bottom.  Please reference the link above for sizes or you can really size it any way you want, which is what I did.

Next you will need your sewing machine set up with a zig zag stitch.  Sew the front and back panels to the bottom first, then the sides to the bottom next.  Last, sew the sides to the front and back.  I left about a half inch seam so I could cut later.

Last part you need to do is sew the handles on.  I just used scraps from my panels that I didn’t need.  I sewed 3 rows of zig zag stitches on the handles to ensure a good solid attachment.

I also stitched about a quarter inch down from the top of the entire circumference of the bag just in case the plastic bags separate.   This shouldn’t happen if you ironed it enough.

DSC_1587 bag

Now you have just used approximately 20-21 of your plastic bags laying around your house.  They will be able to be reused infinite number of times, as opposed to it’s typical single use.  I also intend to make a few fabric versions of the reusable bags coming up.  I wish you luck at bag making.  Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Things To Do With Used Wrapping Paper

It is that time of year again…the time to buy Christmas wrapping paper only for it to end up in the garbage.  But that doesn’t have to happen.  Save some money this year by saving the good pieces for reuse.  I may get teased by my family members a little bit, but I am just trying to save a little bit of trash from ending up in our already large land fill.  Here are some tip on reusing wrapping paper:

1.  Be careful as you unwrap presents.  Especially the large packages.  These make good sheets of wrapping paper to reuse.

2.  Tissue paper can ALWAYS be reused.  I always take all of it home with me, even if it’s torn up a bit.

3.  Use torn up pieces of wrapping or tissue paper to fill boxes that you are shipping.

4.  Shred up wrapping paper to use a filler in gift bags.

5.  Make homemade paper.

6.  Get a circle cutter at a craft store and make gift tags.

7.  Get a half inch circle cutter and create garland with it.  Sew them together end to end.  Having different size circles give it interest.

8.  Use scraps for card making.

9.  Use the back side as scrap paper.

10.  Make homemade gift bows…like here.

No matter what you do with your Christmas wrapping paper, do something to prevent it from ending up in the trash.  And by doing this, you will save a bit of money.  What do you have to lose?

Modern Conveniences

Sometimes spending the extra bit of money on something due to added convenience is worth it.  This really goes against my ideals of being a more green person.  Lots of convenience items are very non-green.  Like bottled water, automobiles and dryers.  Yet, we can’t see ourselves removing these conveniences from our lives.

Yesterday I spent 30 minutes considering a purchase of 2 items.  A purchase-ready 11 x 17 picture frame or the individual pieces that I would have to assemble myself but for cheaper.  The price difference between the two options were maybe 2 bucks, but the time involved thinking about the savings and the time that would have been spent finding all of the pieces and assembling was worth 5 bucks easy.  I persuaded myself to purchased the convenience-purchase ready frame.

Other instances that can be used as an example are home improvement projects.  Sometimes these projects should be left for the pros.  I decided to save myself about $500 by installing my own tile floor.  This sucked, simply.  It was a learning experience, example…I learned as I went.  Ripping out the carpet was the easy part.   I spent every weekend cutting concrete board, renting equipment that I didn’t have, and lying one tile at a time.  Don’t get me wrong, it turned out marvelously, but I could have spent my weekends doing much cooler things.  If anything would have gone wrong with my install, it could have been very wasteful throwing materials away.

The moral of the story is: sometimes it’s okay to spend a bit more.   Somethings to think about are the cost difference for sure, but also the amount of waste produced by each option, the amount of time consumed (in terms of labor) and the affect on the environment, of course.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

When it is 90 degrees or above almost every day, one is almost excited for winter to come.  I hate having the air conditioner running constantly, having to turn on the sprinkler on so the grass doesn’t die and just being miserable standing outside.  It really makes me wonder if this is a symptom of global warming.

I continue to do my part living a greener life.  I just filled my car up with gas Saturday for this first time in 2 months and 1 week.  That is the longest time I have ever went without filling up.  I have been biking almost everywhere I need to go to save on gas and to cut back my carbon footprint.  I haven’t use my clothes dryer all summer, even though my husband hates how they feel stiff.  I don’t notice though.

I wasn’t too shocked when I heard about Greenland’s ice melt.  Sometimes knowing this stuff freaks me out.  Wondering what else will happen next?  Do I even want to know?  Is what I am doing to help the environment even helping?  We need a lot more environmentalists or “green” people than we currently have.

This blog is more than making stuff, it’s also about educating about environmental news, and simple life changes for living a greener life.

Back to Greenland.  Apparently the ice melt happened in a span of 4 days and affected 97 per cent of Greenland’s land mass.  This melting did increase the sea level but only by 3 millimeters.  Scientists say that if the entire ice sheet in Greenland melted it would have a devastating effect.  However they don’t see that happening right now.  But now is the time to make changes.  We need to help spread the word on living more simply and green.  And hopefully with enough persuasion more people will make some sacrifices.  Let me know if there is anything you have to add.  I would love to hear from you!

DIY Household Cleaners

I went to the library Saturday to a presentation on green cleaning.  The gal presenting said she is a professional cleaner for homes and offices.  I was interested in hearing about the brands she uses for cleaning.  For the most part she buys brands like 7th Generation and Citra-Solv.  I will be trying out some of these brands next time I am due for new cleaners, but I was more interested in the homemade recipes she handed out at the end.  I will be buying some spray bottles and making these next time I go to Walmart.

All Purpose Cleaner

1 quart warm water

1 tsp liquid soap (like Dr. Bonner’s Castile Soap)

1 tsp borax

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

Glass Cleaner

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 quart water

Stainless Steel Polish

Pour about 1/2 to 1 tsp olive oil (any grade) on a microfiber cloth and rub over stainless steel appliances, garbage cans, sinks, etc.  Unbelievable shine!  Even causes rust spots to seemingly disappear!

Scouring Powder

3 parts baking soda

1 part borax

Use as you would any scouring powder, being sure to rinse thoroughly.  For lighter jobs use baking soda alone.  Note that baking soda is an alkaline substance that can damage vulnerable surfaces if not rinsed.

Oven Cleaner

1 quart warm water

2 tsp borax

2 Tbsp liquid soap

Mix ingredients.  Spray on, wait 20 minutes, then clean.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

1/4 to 1/2 cup borax

Pour into toilet bowl and let sit for half an hour to overnight.  Then scrub with toilet brush.  *source information.

Baby or All-Purpose Wipes

1 roll of heavy duty paper towels or cloth so they are reusable

1 container with lid. (Old wipes container, ice cream pail or old plastic coffee container)

1 3/4 cups boiled water (or distilled) cooled but still warm

1 Tbsp of pure aloe vera – check the ingredients

1 Tbsp of pure Witch Hazel Extract

2 Tbsp of liquid Castille Soup (Dr. Bonner’s)

10 drops Grapefruit Seed Extract or 2 capsules of Vitamin E

2 Tbsp of Olive or Almond Oil

Essentials Oils of choice (optional – 6 drops each of orange and lavender)

*source information

pics1

Saved From the Trash

Last week was Fargo’s designated Spring Clean Up week.  Our city gives us one week to put whatever we want to get rid of on the boulevard, besides hazardous wastes.  We had a few things that needed to go.  Stuff that was just so run down and trashed that no one would want.  Or so we thought.  You would be surprised what was picked up.  A fridge was the first thing to go.  Gone in about 30 minutes.  Granted it still worked (it was a friend’s and I did ask the husband if we could use a working fridge for our garage) but no one else knew that it still worked.  Also some blinds were taken, the really old fashioned kind.  Ones that were missing a few pieces.

I am a proud boulevard shopper.  I like to look around at what people throw out because you don’t know what will be useful/valuable for you.  I found a good quality desk chair and a laundry basket in good condition that we use frequently.  I am a bit picky with what I take since my husband just thinks it will end up as clutter.

We were putting stuff out and we contemplated putting out these 4 prints that were from the same artist.  I had been with my husband over 9 years now and 5 moves we never had these pictures hanging on the wall.  They were stored in our garage so naturally they got really dirty and dinged up.  I never really looked them over too well until this spring clean up.  I couldn’t throw them away.  I thought I could clean them up and donate them.

I thought once I started cleaning them up I would be disappointed.  On the contrary, I was surprised at what a little patience and cleaner could do to these prints.  Even though they have been in storage for a good decade, there wasn’t any smudges on the prints themselves or on the matting.  I shined them up and put them back together.  The glass was broken on one of the 4 prints so I am going to Hobby Lobby to find a replacement piece.  I am so happy I kept them.  I already know where I am going to hang them.

I love being able to save stuff from being thrown out.  I was a little sad that I didn’t collect as much stuff as I wanted during spring cleaning week.  Next year I will make a harder push to get what I want from the boulevard even if my husband thinks it’s clutter.